Getting Rid of Computer Clutter

When was the last time you de-cluttered your computer?  Our computer desktops can become just as messy as our physical desks if we let them.  When computers are bogged down with out of date or useless information their performance suffers – and so can yours as you slog through your hard drive trying to find the documents you need.  The recycle bin on your computer is your friend – use it!

Your computer filing system should resemble physical filing system as much as possible in order to easily retrieve documents.  If you’re like many people, when you create documents or download documents from email or the Internet, you allow the document to be filed in the default location and leave it at that.  This can leave your My Documents folder or your Desktop in a state of confusion and disarray. 

Here’s an easy fix: In Windows Explorer, select the My Documents folder.  Under the File menu, select New and then Folder.  The new folder name is highlighted.  Give it a broad umbrella name, such as “Personal” or “Business” or “School.”  Then within each folder, create any number of folders appropriate to your organizational method. For example, under “Personal,” you could have folders named Finances, Kids, Legal, House, Recipes, etc.  Under your “Business” folder you might have folders such as Clients, Projects, Contracts, or Reports. 

Once your folders are set up, save documents in the appropriate place when downloading a file from the Internet or email.  When saving, you can also rename the file to make it easier to find later.  I have found that many files have names that are not easily recognized when searching for it months later.  It is not useful to have folders full of files named “report” or 6238484b.pdf.  Better to take the extra second when downloading to rename it to “August 2008 Bank Statement” or “HP ScanJet Instructions.”  This will save time and headaches down the line.

As for the clutter currently on your computer, set aside some time to go through your files.  Depending on how long it’s been since you’ve been through your hard drive this could take fifteen minutes or an hour or more.  If you have hundreds of files to peruse, break up the task into a few half-hour chunks, so you don’t get overwhelmed and give up.  Take the files you need for future use and place them in the appropriate folders. Delete the files you no longer need.  Believe me, it’s as fulfilling deleting the junk out of your computer as it is clearing the clutter from the garage!

© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time®.  She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.



  1. karen rich says:

    Your system for cleaning up computer files has been a GOLDMINE for me. Both my mother and mother-in-law passed away last year and you wouldn’t believe the information there is to track in these cases. Everything I need is at my fingertips–from death certificates to pictures of the houses.
    Cleaning my purse on a regular basis is a great tip, too.


  1. WWPYCBW: Productivity and Effectiveness (September 3, 2008)

    A bit of a catchup … Quick Links – Paper is highly productive for thinking. – Take some time to re-organize your computer files and get up to date with a system that works. – Tips for writing: write about